On a November morning in 2009, Real Estate’s Martin Courtney woke up in a new city, in an unknown house and felt perfectly at ease.
He was on the floor of the home then occupied by Denver indie band Woodsman. Courtney and his bandmates had played Denver’s Hi-Dive the night before with Woodsman, who graciously offered up their floor to crash on.
“I remember their house being really cozy. There was a big carpet and we slept on the floor and waking up and seeing snow on the ground, I was thinking how nice and warm it was in there,” Courtney said. “It was nice, because it was one of those times on tour where you meet people that are really great.”
Since that November show, Real Estate has released three albums and become a nationally known act that will be headlining The Underground Music Showcase on July 26 for its first Denver performance in nearly five years. The band remains good friends with Woodsman, who has since relocated from Denver to Brooklyn and released two albums.
“They’re just really sweet guys and that band is awesome,” Courtney said of Woodsman. The two bands will have a Denver reunion of sorts, as Woodsman returns home to also play The UMS on July 25.
But even though he hasn’t spent much time here, Courtney and his bandmates find themselves running in social circles with Denver musicians. Indie duo Tennis, is another example. The two bands became friends through the New Jersey label Underwater Peoples.
“They’re part of this roster of bands that we feel connected to,” Courtney said. “We’ve played a couple shows with them, and when we played in Boulder they came to the show and we hung out.”
Having these connections with a city he hardly knows shows that the Denver music scene is thriving, Courtney said. He added that it’s also rare to have this many emerging local bands in one area.
“The fact that bands can start there and there are opportunities is pretty awesome,” Courtney said. “That’s not the rule, having that many local bands.”
Hearing Courtney recount his time in Denver and how he met his local friends feels natural coming from a songwriter who has always had one foot in the past.
In fact, Courtney is talking on the phone from his parents home in New Jersey — the same area where he grew up. It’s also where he wrote “Past Lives” from Real Estate’s 2014 album, “Atlas.”
“I was just kind of sitting up here in my parents attic, writing music and feeling a little old, and reflecting on being older than I was and doing the same thing,” Courtney said of the song.
“Atlas,” Real Estate’s most commercially successful album to date, continues the band’s retrospective feel, both lyrically and musically. On tracks such as “Talking Backwards,” “April’s Song,” “Past Lives” and “Had to Hear,” the band provides a lesson in patience — establishing a steady groove and letting it tick along like clockwork.
“It’s a lot about subtlety and to be able to hear the intricacies of the arrangements,” Courtney said. “We’re all about repetition. When we practice we do a lot of jamming where we play the same thing over and over again and get in the zone.”
The drums, bass and guitars on “Atlas” all move together naturally, giving the album a distinctly live sound.
And as such, when you hear Real Estate recorded, that’s what you’ll get when you see them at The UMS.
“With other albums the songs changed more live because we hadn’t spent as much time playing them before recording,” Courtney said. “The vocal melodies always change live, partly to keep them interesting and partly because there are a few things I would do differently now.”